Circumstance will highlight inspiration and its influence across object-making, through the specifically commissioned work of six multi-generational artists. The exhibition will underscore the intersection of installation art and exhibition design, and show how the convergence of fine art, design, and non-art objects within the exhibition format informs and elucidates creative expression.

For six months (May 3 to October 25, 2015), the entire museum facility—whose distinctive galleries range from the intimate to the spacious—will be transformed into “rooms” designed by the exhibiting artists, which will “read” as total works of art as they show their own work alongside objects and/or artworks by other artists they have selected. In some instances, works may extend outside of the Museum’s walls, providing alternative ways of perceiving space by offering extended lines of sight across the campus. In doing so, Circumstance attempts to explore the interstices where art and object come together, come apart, and reunify, by examining context, its many shifts and permutations, and tracing the movement of art and objects from the studio to the museum. The participating artists are Virginia Poundstone, Nancy Shaver, Ruby Sky Stiler, Penelope Umbrico, Elif Uras, and B. Wurtz.

During Circumstance, the Museum will become a captivating maze of intersecting rooms where cultural hierarchies are intentionally obscured, where craft, found, utilitarian, historical design, and everyday objects sit beside works of art, informing us as to how artists take inspiration from what is around them. Selected artworks and objects will enhance our “reading” and innovatively offer—vis-à-vis a visual form of storytelling—intersecting and interdynamic narratives about these works of art and their makers, confronting us with larger questions about history, culture, and society. Imaginative forms of art installation, exhibition making, and curatorial display will coalesce; the boundaries between objects/art will be playfully unclear, opening up fertile discussions about ways of seeing and experiencing the art/objects that engulf us. The artists will take center stage in the development, conceptualization, and reception of their work, as the Museum assists them to reveal never-before-seen aspects of their practice.

May 3 through October 25, 2015

Virginia Poundstone: Flower Mutations

Virginia Poundstone (b. 1977, Great Lakes, Illinois) will take formal inspiration from Giacomo Balla's series of Futurist Flowers as well as traditional American Dutch flower-pattern quilts. She will create a series of new outdoor sculptures and curate an interior room of objects that investigate the visual representation of flowers through abstraction in art and design (from fifth century Islamic textiles to concrete poetry to experimental films). These sculptures, a series of geometric flowers in stone and metal sheets between three and six feet tall, will be placed on the Museum’s grounds to form a garden complete with actual floral landscaping. Inside the Museum, a curated display of source material and inspirational works by other artists will be shown side by side with Poundstone’s own sketches and models.

Curated by Amy Smith-Stewart
Image: Virginia Poundstone, Rainbow Rose, 2013
Courtesy of the artist


Nancy Shaver: The Reconciliation of the Ordinary and Decorative

For Nancy Shaver (b. 1946, Appleton, New York), objects are not inert things. Instead, like characters in a play, they have back-stories; onstage relationships with other objects; new roles in unknowable futures. Shaver has integrated her practice as an artist into the world of the ordinary and domestic by using the act of collecting as an organizing principle. For her project at The Aldrich, she will juxtapose recent sculpture made from women’s clothing fabric found in rural thrift stores in upstate New York with photographs by Walker Evans (who was one of her teachers) and images of the artist, fabric, and clothing designer Sonia Delaunay. Shaver feels that her practice resides at a mid-point between the work of these two artists: the frugal, make-do aesthetics of those living in poverty as revealed in Evans’s photographs, and the Modernist, high-art of Delaunay as manifested in her work in the 1920s Parisian fashion world.

Curated by Richard Klein
Image: Nancy Shaver, Untitled, 2014
Courtesy of the artist


Ruby Sky Stiler

Ruby Sky Stiler’s (b. 1979, Portland, Maine) experimentation with Hydrocal plaster evolved alongside her interest in the scholarly history of classical plaster cast replications. Through time these objects have fallen in and out of favor. Her cast reliefs originate from compositions of detritus from previous works and fragments of left-over materials salvaged from around her studio, making ghostly references to objects she describes as not present and no longer in existence. For The Aldrich, her site-specific installation will display her own wall-scale plaster reliefs with a selection of loaned classical casts. The wall arrangement will consist of multiple casts of her works, designed as a tiled repeat pattern. This process calls to mind classical bas-relief, design elements in Le Corbusier’s concrete architecture, Picasso’s sgraffito works, low relief in municipal sculpture, and decorative relief. This interplay of references, espousing both the high and low, explores questions of taste, originality and value.

Curated by Amy Smith-Stewart
Image: Ruby Sky Stiler, Unique Copy (4 parts in repeat), 2014
Courtesy of the artist and Nicelle Beauchene Gallery, New York


Penelope Umbrico: Avoiding the Sun

Penelope Umbrico’s (b. 1957, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) photographic process has led to her being labeled an archivist and collector, as she increasingly utilizes Internet images from sources as diverse as Flickr, eBay, and Craigslist. For her Aldrich project, Umbrico will place her practice in the continuum of the evolving history of photographic imagery. The Museum’s camera obscura will become a starting point to explore the technologies of both analog and digital reproduction and how we are at a point where light—traditionally the most central element of photography—has become disembodied from the natural world, with even the sun itself being reduced to a mere artifact. Umbrico will place a “sunset” (streaming images of the sun found on the Internet) on a monitor outside the camera obscura, creating a sun image inside the camera that, although produced naturally by light entering the camera’s pinhole, is actually an artifact that has been “reprocessed” through traditional photographic means.

Curated by Richard Klein
Image: Penelope Umbrico, Suns (from Sunsets) from Flickr, 2006-ongoing
Courtesy of the artist and Mark Moore Gallery, Culver City, CA


Elif Uras

The paintings and ceramic works of Elif Uras (b. 1972, Ankara, Turkey) explore, in her words, “shifting notions of gender and class within the context of the East-West conflict paradigm.” Working onsite in Iznik (Nicaea), where the most renowned tiles and ceramics of the Ottoman Empire originated, she creates sculptures that incorporate the non-figurative visual vocabulary of traditional Turkish art and Western figuration. For The Aldrich, she plans to transform a gallery into a domestic interior courtyard—a feature that figures prominently in Turkish and Islamic architecture. At the center of the gallery, a ceramic fountain resembling a traditional marble basin will sit atop a carpet-like grid of glazed and painted Iznik floor tiles. Wall niches will contain ceramic plates and vessels, which, like the tiles, will be painted in the blue-and-white palette—a nod to both the Chinese origins of Iznik and to the monochrome, one of the defining gestures of modernist painting.

Curated by Amy Smith-Stewart
Image: Elif Uras, The Olivepickers, 2014
Courtesy of the artist


B. Wurtz

B. Wurtz (b. 1948, Pasadena, California) has since 1990 produced an ongoing body of work that he refers to as “pan paintings.” These wall pieces are made from ordinary supermarket aluminum food containers, as well as larger roasting pans purchased at kitchen goods stores. He paints over the patterns and texts on the exterior of the pans with various colors of acrylic paint. These inexpensive and disposable pans transcend socio-economic class, passing through every home at some point in time; but Wurtz has transformed the ordinary into something collectible. For The Aldrich, Wurtz will cover the walls of an entire room, salon style, with his pan paintings. Additionally, a freestanding vitrine will showcase selections from three collections of functional items commonly found in middle/upper-middle-class households—cut glass, steel/enamel, and stoneware—that offer a compelling dialogue about high art, decorative art, form and function, as well as the act of collecting.

Curated by Amy Smith-Stewart
Image: B. Wurtz, Untitled (Pan Painting), 2013
Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York